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Shefa-'Amr, also Shfar'am ( , ; , ) is a city in the North Districtmarker in Israelmarker. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), at the end of 2008 the city had a population of 34,900.


In the Roman Era, the town was known as "Shofar Am", Hebrew for "horn of a nation". It is thought that this name is derived from that of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which for a time was located in the city and was considered the nation's horn. Alternatively, the name could be based on the literary Heberw word shefer שפר, meaning "beauty" or "goodness", i.e. "the beauty of the people".

The Arabic story for the name that is widespread among the people of the city is different. It is said that Amr Ibn Al-Aas, an Arab military commander, was sick when he came to the area, and when he drank of its water he was healed, so his soldiers started saying in Arabic "Shofiya Amr" (Amr was healed), and that was the source of the name. The spring which Omar drank from is still standing today southeast of the city. Others think that the name "Shfar-am" was changed to an Arabic form "Shefa-'Amr" in the Ottoman period.


Archaeological research in Shefa-'Amr indicates that the area has been inhabited for centuries. It is unclear who the early inhabitants were, although they may have been Canaanites. Shefa-'Amr is mentioned in the Talmud as one of the cities that contained the seat of the Jewish Sanhedrin. It is again mentioned in connection with Jewish revolts against the Romans, and Jewish graves and remains in caves dating to the Roman era of rule in Palestine have been found there.

Shefa-'Amr contains Byzantine remains, including remains of a church and tombs. Under the Crusader the place was known as Safran. The village (called "Shafar Am) was used, between 586-590 H., by Saladin as a military base for attacs on Acremarker. By 1229, the place was back in Crusader hands, and it was confirmed as such by Sultan Baybars in the peace treaty of 1271 C.E. (670 H.), and by Qulawun in 1283. However, it apparently came under Mamluk control in 1291 C.E.

During early Ottoman rule in Palestine, in 1564 C.E., the revenues of the village of Shefa-'Amr were designated for the new waqf of Hasseki Sultan Imaret in Jerusalem, established by Hasseki Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. A firman dated 981 H. (1573 C.E.) mention that Shefa-'Amr was among a group of villages in nahiya of Akkamarker which had rebelled against the Ottoman administration. By 1577 C.E. the village had accumulated an arsenal of 200 muskets. In the 1596 daftar, Shefa-'Amr was part of the nahiya (subdistrict) of Akkamarker with a population of 91 households ("khana"). The taxable produce comprised "occasional revenues" and "goats and beehives". Its inhabitants also paid for the use or ownership of an oil press.

It was not until the eighteenth century that the village rose to real prominence. At the beginning of the century the village was under control of Shaykh Ali Zaydani, uncle of DahEr el-Omar and leading shaykh of lower Galilee. It is also known that there was a castle in the village at least as early as 1740. After Daher el-Omar's rise to power in the 1740s, Ali Zaydani was replaced with his nephew, Uthman; a brother of Daher el-Omar. After Daher el-Omar's death in 1775, Jezzar Pasha allowed Uthman to continue as a ruler of Shefa-'Amr in return for a promise of loyalty and advance payment of taxes. Jezzar Pasha even allowed the fortress to remain intact despite orders from Constantinoplemarker that it should be destroyed. Several years later Uthman was removed and replaced with Ibrahim Abu Qalush, an appointee of Jezzar Pasha.

During this period Shefa-'Amr was a regional centre of some importance. The importance of the village was due to two factors; firstly, its position in the heart of the cotton growing area, secondly its natural and manmade defences. The significance of cotton to the growth of Shefa-'Amr is fundamental. Tax returns for the village attest to the large returns expected of this crop.

Shefa-'Amr in 1910

Until 1900, the Jews of Shefa-'Amr worked as farmers. Subsequently they started working as merchants because of the high taxes. Therefore they went to live in Haifamarker and Acre, until in 1920 the last Jewish family was forced out the city in the wake of the 1920 Palestine riots. In 1919, when Britain ruled the area, they appointed a military governor until 1948, when Israelmarker was founded and Shefa-'Amr became a local council.

Shefa-'Amr was part of the area allocated to the Jewish state by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, the partition plan of November 29, 1947. It was defended by Arab Liberation Army troops led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji, but conquered by Israeli forces on July 14, 1948.

The Mayor of Shefa-'Amr Ibraheem Nimr Hussein held the chairmanship of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel (later the Arab Follow-Up Committee) since the inception of this committee in 1975. Orsan Yassin , the Mayor who replaced him in the 90's, did not want to take a part of this committee so he resigned from it and the chairmanship was given to someone else.

Historical sites

The fort

The Fort
The fort is located in the middle of the city. it was built in 1760 by Daher el-Omar, at the time the governor of the area, for the purpose of securing the entrance to Galilee. The fort was built on the remains of a Crusader fort from The Middle Ages, called "Le Seffram".

Daher wanted to go as high as possible with his fort because he wanted to be able to see his brother's fort in Safedmarker. He was able to build the first two floors but when he started on the third one he stopped apparently because he had low funds and also the low security in Galilee in that time. The first floor of the fort was a big place for the horses, the second floor was where Dhaher used to live. Daher's fort is considered the biggest remain of the Zidans in Galilee.

After the establishment of the state of Israelmarker the fort was used for a few decades as a police station, after a new station was built in the "Fawwar" neighbourhood it was renovated and converted to a youth center club.

Nowadays the youth club is closed and the fort is unoccupied.

Byzantine tombs

Byzantine period tombs
The Byzantine period tombs are located in the middle of the city. They were the graves of the 5th and 6th century Christian community. The tomb entrances are decorated with sculptures of lions and Greek inscriptions which make mention of Jesus.

Ancient synagogue

Shefa'-Amr is home to an old synagogue on the site of an even older structure. It is recorded as being active in 1845. During the October 2000 events, mayor Yassin stopped youth wanting to burn it down with his body. The synagogue was renovated in 2006.
Shefa-'Amr old market

The old market

The old market of Shefa-'Amr was the pounding heart of the city, stretching on a long area in the middle part of the city. The old market contained the main stores of the local inhabitants for a long period of time, it had restaurants, clothing stores, groceries, shoe makers and more.throughout the times the old market started losing its position as the heart of the city and businesses started gradually moving out of it to other places all around Shefa-'Amr. The only place that is still opened and working until today is an old coffee shop where old men gather every day passing their times playing backgammon and drinking Arab coffee.

According to the new mayor of Shefa-Amr Nahed Khazem he got a governmental budget for improving and reviving the old market and the area surrounding the Fort, the work on them will start soon with the hope of making them attractive for visitors of the city.

The tower

Although it is called "The Tower" by the local residents and its surrounding neighbourhood is called "al Burj" ("The tower" in Arabic) this structure was actually an old crusaders fort. The structure has been neglected over the years and its in a bad shape nowadays.
The Tower

St. Jacob's Church

In the center of the city, where the Sisters of Nazareth conventmarker stands today, was a 4th century church called St. Jacob's Church. This church is mentioned in the notes of Christian church historians, although the church is not still standing today (the church of the monastery is where it was). Some marble columns remain, like those used to build the earliest churches.

St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

St. Peter & St. Paul's Church
Is located in one of the town's peaks near the fort, it has a high bell tower and a large blue dome. The church was built by Otman, who made a promise to build it if his fort was finished successfully, so its history goes back to that of the fort. The walls of the church started to get weak so in 1904 the whole church was strengthened and improved. It remains standing today and is the main church of the Greek Catholic community of Shefa-'Amr.

Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba Grave

Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba was a well-known Rabbi from the 2nd century. He was captured and executed by the Romans. His grave is still standing in Shefa-'Amr and many Jewish believers come to visit it.


Shefa-'Amr is an ancient city located in the North Districtmarker in Israelmarker at the entrance to Galilee. It is located from the Mediterranean Sea and from each of three cities, Haifamarker, Acre and Nazarethmarker, which gives its inhabitants ample opportunity for employment. The city is located on seven hills, which gives it the name "Little Rome".

The elevation of the city and its strategic location as the connection between the valleys and mountains of Galilee made it more than once the center of its district, especially in the period of Otman the son of Dhaher al-Omar, who built a castle in it, and towers around it. If you stand in a high spot in the city you can see a great view: the bay of Haifamarker with the sea stretching between Haifamarker and Acre in the west, and in other directions the high mountains of Galilee and the valleys surrounding the city.


Shfar'am's diverse population drawn from several different communities gives the city a relatively cosmopolitan and multi-cultural ambiance.

According to CBS, in 2001 the religious and ethnic makeup of the city was mostly Israeli Arabs (consisting of 57.3% Muslim, 27.5% Christian, and 14.6% Druze). See Population groups in Israel.

According to CBS, in 2007 there were 34,123 registered citizens in the city thereof 17,000 males and 16,800 females. The population of the city was spread out with 16.8% 19 years of age or younger, 5.1% between 20 and 29, 7.4% between 30 and 44, 4.8% from 45 to 64, and 1.5% 65 years of age or older with a Medina age of 23.6.

Population in Shefa-'Amr over the years:


According to the CBS, as of the year 2000, there were as many as 7,114 salaried and 872 self-employed workers in the city . The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS 3,836, a real change of 3.4% over the course of 2000. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS 4,543 (a real change of 5.3%) versus ILS 2,386 for females (a real change of -3.3%). The mean income for the self-employed is 5,777. There are 507 people who receive unemployment benefits and 5,315 people who receive an income guarantee.


According to the CBS, there are 16 schools and 7,299 students in the city, which are spread out as 10 elementary schools hosting 4,324 elementary school students, and 8 high schools hosting 2,975 high school students. 57.7% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.

In the eastern part of the city Mifal HaPayis built many educational buildings including: a public computer center, a public library, a big hall for various occasions and more.



Beit almusica
  • The Beit al-Musica Conservatory - founded in 1999 by musician 'Aamer Nakhleh' is a well known music establishment among the local art establishments. Situated in the center of Shefa-'Amr it not only offers a year-round programs of music studies in various instruments but also holds lots of music ensembles, performances and concerts.
  • Every year the city of Shefa-'Amr holds a big music festival called "The Fort Festival", young Arab children from all around the country come and perform one of many classic Arabic songs and at the end of the night one of them is awarded the title "Best voice of the year".
  • The Ba'ath choir - was established in Shefa-'Amr by Raheeb Haddad, it's a well known choir that performs tens of concerts all over the country and participates in many international art concerts.
  • Reem Talhami - is a well known classic singer, participated in many concerts all over the Arab world.
  • Tayseer Elias - is one of Israels best Arab musicians and violin players.


  • Butrus Lusia - Probably the best artist Shefa'Amr has ever known. Throughout his life Butrus worked on lots of art projects, but since the 60's people started asking him to paint Christian icons which they contributed for the churches of Shefa'Amr, today most of the icons in the churches are of his work. But perhaps his best work is the one he painted back in 1940 of St. Elia and other saints riding a fire chariot going up to the sky which he conserved until his last day.


Al Ghurbal main building in Shefa-'Amr
The first serious theater works in Shefa-'Amr were held back in the 50's by the Christian scouts of the city, many plays were held over the years by the members of the scouts.Later in 1954 a few of young people from the city established a new acting group that held 2 Voluntarily plays for the purpose of establishing a new scouts movement.for the next two decades, between the late 50's and the 70's, there were no real theater movement in the city except of some high school plays. In the 70's many theaters started appearing in the city, and many plays were held by each of them. probably the most known of them are: the sons of Shefa-A'mr theater, Athar theater, house of the youth theater, Alghurbal Al Shefa-'Amry theater and Al Ufok theater. today the biggest theater in the city is the Ghurbal Establishment which is a national Arab theater.

One of the well known artist in the city is Sa'eed Salame, an actor, comedian and a pantomimist. Sa'eed established an international pantomime festival that is being held annually for the past 4 years, pantomimists from all around the world participate in the festival which is held for 3 days.


For food items, Shefa-'Amr is most famous for its mastic-flavored ice cream, bozet Shefa-'Amr, and the Nakhleh Coffee Company, the leading coffee producer in Israel's Arab community.

In the last year new restaurant-cafes have been opened in parts of the old city; those places are becoming the main cafes the youth of Shefa-Amr choose to spend their free time and special occasions in.One of those cafes, called Awt Cafe, started holding musical nights where local singers and instruments players like Oud and others play for the crowd of visitors. Being a new trend in the city these nights are becoming a great success and the cafe in those nights is always full of people who come to enjoy a cultural night with their friends and families.

Violent incident in Shefa-'Amr

On August 4, 2005, an AWOL Israeli Defense Force soldier, Eden Natan-Zada, opened fire while aboard a bus in the city, killing four Israeli Arab citizens and wounding twenty-two others. After the shooting, Natan-Zada was overcome by nearby crowds, lynched and beaten with rocks.

According to witnesses, the bus driver was initially surprised to see a kippah-wearing Jewish soldier making his way to Shefa-'Amr (an overwhelmingly Arab city) via public bus, so inquired of Natan-Zada whether he was certain he wanted to take his current route.

The four fatalities were Hazar Turki and Dina Turki, two sisters in their early twenties, and two men, Michel Bahouth (the bus driver) and Nader Hayek. In the days following the attack, 40,000 Arabs attended mass funeral services in the town for all of the victims: the two sisters were buried in an Islamic cemetery, and the two men were buried in the local Christian Catholic cemetery.

Shfaram and Israel Independence Day

In January 2008, the Mayor of Shefa-'Amr, Ursan Yassin, met with officials of the Israeli state committee on the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of independence, and announced that Shefa-'Amr intends to take part in the celebrations. He stated:This is our country and we completely disapprove of the statements made by the Higher Monitoring Committee. I want to hold a central ceremony in Shefa-'Amr, raise all the flags and have a huge feast.

The 40,000 residents of Shefa-'Amr feel that they are a part of the State of Israel...The desire to participate in the festivities is shared by most of the residents.

We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our country and we want to live in coexistence with its Jewishresidents.[40977]

Famous residents

See also


  1. Conder, Claude Reignier and H.H. Kitchener: The Survey of Western Palestine. London:Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. (1881) I:343, Guerin, I, 414, TIR, 230. All cited in Petersen, 2002, p.276
  2. Abu Shama RHC (or.), IV, 487. Yaqut, p304, Both cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 277
  3. Ibn al-Furat, Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 277
  4. Singer, A., 2002, p. 126
  5. Heyd, 1960, p84-85,n.2. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p.277.
  6. Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter and Kamal Abdulfattah (1977), Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 192. Quoted in Petersen, 2002, p.277
  7. Cohen, 1973, p.106. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p.277
  8. Cohen, 1973, p.25. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p.277
  9. Cohen, 1973, p.128. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p.277
  10. Herzog and Gazit, 2005, p. 79.
  11. Ynet, Feb 1, 2008


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